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Not sure how to react to my 4 year old daughter's fits/behavior lately :(

My 4 year old has been acting out a lot lately. There have been a lot of changes here lately and more to come. I'm expecting a baby in about 8 weeks and I know she senses the changes with that and I changed my hours at work which has changed her hours at "school" (daycare).

It seems like a few weeks ago out of nowhere she just decided she doesn't want to listen to ANYONE anymore. When myself, her father, her teachers, etc ask her to do something she will straight up IGNORE us and if we attempt to stop her from doing something or tell her "no," she will immediately start screaming her head off and will throw a huge fit.

Today we went to dinner after work/school and when we went to pay for our food at the front she noticed that they had candy and asked if she could have some. She just celebrated her birthday a few days ago and has had an abundance of candy/sugar and I don't usually allow that so I told her "not tonight honey, maybe you can have a treat tomorrow." She simply pouted and said "ahhh man" and I thought that was the end of that. Well, we get out to the parking lot and out of nowhere she is screaming "RING POP RING POP RING POP" and refuses to move. I had to practically drag her to the car as she screamed. She screamed for forty minutes over candy.

Any tips/tricks for disciplining a child her age? I don't know what to do...

Answer Question

Asked by Anonymous at 1:09 AM on Oct. 5, 2013 in Preschoolers (3-4)

Answers (9)
  • Sounds like she's reacting to the changes, but also she's beginning to assert a will of her own. What have you tried? How did you respond when she screamed for forty minutes over not getting a ring pop?

    Answer by Ballad at 1:13 AM on Oct. 5, 2013

  • When my kids tried stuff like that, they got a single spank on the butt and sent to their rooms. If they continued excessively, they would sometimes get a small amount of water tossed in their face to shock them out of the bad behavior.

    Part of this, like you said, is her reaction to being "replaced" by the new baby. She desperately needs to know that she's still loved and has her place in your family. A good book to read with her would be The Barenstain Bears And Baby Makes Five. I'm pretty sure she'll identify with Sister Bear, even though the baby hasn't come yet.

    The biggest thing is to not let her get away with that kind of behavior. Whatever you decide to do, do it Every. Single. Time. And, both of you need to have the same reaction.

    Answer by Rosehawk at 1:17 AM on Oct. 5, 2013

  • Ballad - Tonight I actually had to leave her in the car in her car seat...we were pretty far from home and her screaming was so bad that it was sending my BP through the roof so I left my door open a little, left it running with the air on and walked a few steps away until her screaming calmed down. I then got back in the car and told her we'd talk about her behavior when we got home. Once we got home she tried to play it off like nothing happened. I reminded her that she had acted badly, that it was unacceptable and that I was upset with her. I informed her that she'd have no tv time for the remainder of the night or tomorrow and that the next time she'd lose her favorite toy, tv time and she'd be sent to her room until she could calm herself down.

    This is usually what I do, but I'll admit there have been times since I've been pregnant that I lose my cool and spank and/or yell at her and I end up feeling like a jerk.

    Comment by Anonymous (original poster) at 1:24 AM on Oct. 5, 2013

  • Make it clear what is and is not allowed and stay as calm as you can. Be matter of fact. She does not understand all that is going on right now. Ignore as much of the outbursts as you can. But calmly make it clear what is allowed. Make her your "big helper" in anything and everything you do like loading the dryer, vacuuming, loading the dishwasher, folding clothes (no matter what the mess), etc, etc. Make her your big helper when the baby comes too....getting wipes, singing to the baby, et, etc. This can go a long way to make a child feel needed. Read to her and cuddle with her a lot. Sit on the floor and play with her. Take her to the playground. Get some age appropriate games and play them with her. Tell her you love her more than you correct her. Stay calm....relax....enjoy her. Just ideas that might help. hug

    Answer by silverthreads at 7:43 AM on Oct. 5, 2013

  • And heap on the praise when she does something right.

    Answer by silverthreads at 9:44 AM on Oct. 5, 2013

  • Your job is to hold the reasonable limits that you decide. Her job is to adjust to the fact that she cannot make things go her way at these times. The scenario or situation comes with emotions! If you can tolerate the fact that she has feelings about the things she can't change, that she struggles hard to get the outcome she wants, and that she also grieves losses & rages about being powerless, then she'll learn that those experiences & feelings are a part of life, that she's accepted unconditionally (it doesn't go away when she is "bad" or when you "disapprove" of her emotional expression), and that she can survive having those feelings!
    This is how children develop emotional regulation, the ability to stay regulated.
    If they aren't met with regulated adults who can handle witnessing & tolerating their "big" feelings, they don't learn this. They learn repression--that it's unsafe to express certain "unacceptable" feelings.

    Answer by girlwithC at 6:27 PM on Oct. 5, 2013

  • In light of the "your job is" & "her job is" comment, my suggestion would be to recognize that what you described was upsetting/triggering to you, but not really a problem (that shouldn't be happening) with her.
    Think of her meltdown as her struggle to make things turn out the way she wanted, and then her grieving a loss.
    Keep in mind, too, that children who carry stresses from things during the day (from stressed, preoccupied or busy parents who are less available than the child would love; or from a handful of small hurts or disappointments that they didn't get to process fully at the time), are carrying feelings that NEED to come out! They often will get set on something & it feels like they "need" to have it, but that intensity is really the big ball of emotion they're lugging around. Children have an instinct to heal emotional hurts & they will choose a "pretext" about which to rage or cry, when they need to offload.

    Answer by girlwithC at 5:10 PM on Oct. 8, 2013

  • Hold your reasonable limit (don't recreate reality for her just because she is having a tantrum) but give her the space to have her feelings about that limit. Keep in mind that the feelings might be about lots of other things, in truth. It's a healing process. If you stay close to her in her tears/anger, simply making space for her to be mad & express it (without it being wrong, or making her risk losing your love or approval in that moment), then you are offering her the emotional containment that will support the development of her ability to regulate her own emotions.
    If we all got that support when we were little, it would be easier for us to parent (because we'd have an easier time tolerating our children's "big" feelings. It is VERY hard to give what you didn't get, and generally being exposed to our children's "big" feelings triggers all our own hurts, which is why it's so INTOLERABLE and profoundly irritating, to us!)

    Answer by girlwithC at 5:14 PM on Oct. 8, 2013

  • Listen to girlwithc

    Answer by staciandababy at 2:01 AM on Oct. 24, 2013

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